Pennsylvania Mining Complex
The Pennsylvania Mining Complex is the largest active underground coal mine in North America. It is far larger than Manhattan Island, New York. The mining complex is located mostly in Washington & Greene Counties, PA. Part of the complex is in West Virginia.
The mining complex is Southpointe-based Consol Energy’s flagship operation. It is a highly productive longwall mining operation. It can produce nearly 30 million tons of coal a year. “It is among the safest & most productive complexes in the world,” the company wrote.
In longwall mining, a long wall of coal is mined in a single slice that is usually 2 to 3 feet thick & up to 2½ miles long.
The Pennsylvania Mining Complex is actually three mines & related operations.
Bailey Mine – the oldest of the three – has been excavated since the mid 1980s. The annual production capacity of Bailey Mine exceeds 10 million tons. Its reserves are estimated at about 270 million tons.
Enlow Fork Mine has been active since the early 1990s. Annual production is around 10 million tons. The reserves are more than 300 million tons.
Harvey Mine opened in the mid 2010s. It produces several million tons of coal a year & has more than 200 million tons of reserves. The Underground Training Academy is located at Harvey Mine. It is the only underground mine training program.
The complex includes a centralized coal processing facility that can store up to 153,000 tons of coal, wash more than 8,000 tons of coal an hour & store about 132,000 tons of cleaned coal. The Train Loadout Facility operates around the clock. Several train units can be loaded with coal at the same time – the loadout facility loads coal onto trains faster than any other facility in the eastern U.S. The coal is checked for quality as it’s loaded.
Hundreds of millions of tons of coal is buried underground in the Washington area because of plants & animals that lived here million of years ago. They died & were buried by natural forces that lifted the ground again & repopulated the area, only to bury them & lift the land again. Over time, all those organic remains were finally buried far underground long enough for the pressure there to turn them into coal.
Early in the coronavirus pandemic of 2020/21, Bailey Mine was closed for 14 days after two employees tested positive for COVID-19. Two weeks later, Bailey Mine returned to a normal production schedule with staggered shifts, social distancing & sanitization measures in place.
The pandemic led an economic slowdown & weakness in coal demand across the U.S. Coal mines shut down & laid off miners. Locally, mining at Enlow Fork Mine was suspended. Consol Energy renegotiated their financial instruments, cut costs & made other moves to remain strong coming out of the pandemic.
The Pennsylvania Mining Complex was entirely owned by Consol Energy until the company spun off Consol Coal Resources (CCR) in the mid 2010s to operate the mining complex & own a portion of it. In 2020, Consol Energy reacquired CCR in an all-stock transaction, giving it once again full control of the mining complex in one consolidated company.
One of the strengths of Consol Energy might lie in building an environmentally friendly power generation plant. Three million tons of wet waste coal that results from washing & processing coal at the Pennsylvania Mining Complex’s centralized coal processing facility would fuel the power plant. At present, that by-product goes to disposal ponds. The fuel for the power plant would cost Consol Energy next to nothing.
Emissions from the power plant would be captured & sent deep underground to be kept in a carbon dioxide storage hub.
The ambitious power plant proposal is one of four projects splitting an $80 million grant awarded by the U.S. Department of Energy to show that coal can burn cleanly through the use of carbon-capture technology. If everything works out, the power plant could be under construction by 2024 & operational in 2027 or 2028.
The company is looking at five potential sites for the power plant, the Standard-Observer reported. One possible site is near Moundsville, WV, while the other four potential locations are in Greene County, including at the Pennsylvania Mining Complex.
The Pennsylvania Mining Complex is located at the border of Washington & Greene Counties next to West Virginia.
This article was published in